Skilled Care – Nursing and rehabilitation to meet your special needs

Paul Johnson and WMC staff.
Paul Johnson is pictured with a few of the WMC staff who provided skilled care during his stay at WMC. From left: Cathy Elliott, LPN, Jared Sanness, PTA, Michele Dickson, RN, Pat Carey, PT, and Paul’s case manager, Karen Humpal.

It was a beautiful spring day when Paul Johnson climbed on his tractor for some morning farm work.  But Paul’s plans changed in an instant when a log he’d been pushing bucked back, slamming into the back of his neck and sending him somersaulting off the tractor.   “I landed face-up on the ground, looking at the clear blue sky and the tractor’s axle above me as it continued down the hill,” says Paul.  His calls for help were eventually heard by a neighbor, who called 911.

Winneshiek Medical Center Ambulance and area emergency responders arrived to the scene, quickly assessed the situation and called for MedLink to do a scene flight to Rochester. “I distinctly remember one of the paramedics saying ‘We’d better put a neck brace on.’  Although I didn’t know it at the time, that single act was the difference between me walking again and facing paralysis,” says Paul. Within one hour of the dispatched call, Paul was in the helicopter heading north to St. Marys.

Before his seven-hour neck surgery, Paul was given a 10% chance of ever walking again by the Mayo Clinic team in Rochester.  His surgeons re-built the crushed vertebrae in his neck, and at the same time, repositioned his dislocated hip.

Paul was fit with neck and hip braces, and his days in intensive care in Rochester consisted of therapy to gradually increase movement.  “My wife, Pat, and I discussed staying at St. Marys to recover, but decided the best place for me was near my home – at Winneshiek Medical Center,” says Paul.

Following an illness or surgery, patients from any acute care hospital or system can choose to have their skilled care at Winneshiek Medical Center.  Through a program called the Swing Bed Program, patients receive skilled nursing care and therapy that meets their specific care needs.

“I was at Winneshiek Medical Center for 19 days,” says Paul.  “During that time, I had to re-learn how to climb in and out of bed, get in a wheelchair and walk down the hall, along with many other daily living tasks.”  Being close to home, Paul had regular visitors to pass the time and keep him in good spirits.  “My granddaughter would bring her guitar to play and sing for me, and groups of friends would put on impromptu concerts – I think we might have kept other patients up a time or two!” he says.

But it was the laughter that made his time at the medical center memorable.  “My therapists, nurses… we laughed a lot,” says Paul.  “When you depend on the nursing staff for everything, it helps to develop a sense of humor.”  He adds, “You come to understand how important a good, local hospital is.  My nursing care was second-to-none, and without the quality of care I received – from the intuitiveness of the initial emergency response team to the skill and compassion of the staff helping me recover (both in the hospital and home health care afterwards) – my world would be very different today.”

And today, Paul can be found most anywhere.  Since the accident, he has traveled to Greece, the Boundary Waters, camped in Texas and hiked the desert.  Paul says, “With a little luck, the ‘miracle workers’ at Mayo, and the excellent care at WMC, I am standing on my own two feet.”  He adds, “I am thankful.”


Skilled Nursing Care At Winneshiek Medical Center

If you are interested in learning more about skilled care through the Winneshiek Medical Center Swing Bed Program, contact Karen Humpal, RN at 563-382-2911 or visit with the discharge planning social worker or nurse at the facility of your surgery or medical care. Skilled care is covered for Medicare participants and many private insurance policies when qualifying criteria have been met.

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